Published: 27th September 2019
We are a highly secular university: Outrage pushes Anna University VC to make Gita, Upanishads optional
Speaking at a press conference, MK Surappa, the VC said that he had spoken with his colleagues in the IT departments and has told them that philosophy should be an elective
After outrage over Anna University's decision to include Indian 'philosophy texts' in the syllabus, the Vice Chancellor has said that the administration will make amends to make it an optional course. The University had introduced 'Philosophy' as a subject this year for BTech students and had included the Bhagawad Gita, Upanishads and Vedas as reference texts. The syllabus received a lot of backlash from activists and academics for including Hindu religious texts in an engineering course and in a public funded university.
Speaking at a press conference, MK Surappa, the VC said that he had spoken with his colleagues in the IT departments and has told them that philosophy should be an elective. "We have a year to act on it, it is not yet implemented. We will offer three electives out of which one will be philosophy," he said. He went to say that when the syllabus was devised the administration did not think there was anything to worry about, "It was recommended by a great scholar in Philosophy but now that we've seen that there is so much apprehension, we have decided to amend it to make the subject options."
Explaining how the syllabus was devised, Surappa said that the curriculum included texts on Greek, Roman civilisations, Plato and other comparative studies on Western philosophy. "Here, Indian philosophy revolves around the Upanishads. This is how it came to be included in the course. These kinds of courses have been offered in the IITs even ten years ago when I was a director there. Nothing political is being imposed on students. It is only for the sake of knowledge generation that we decided to add it. But now, the students have a choice," he explained.
When asked if the amendments would be made for sure, the VC said that Anna University was a secular space, "Once I say the amendment will be made, we will do it. Take my word for it."
However, Surappa's explanation comparing Bhagawat Gita with the works of Socrates and Plato didn't go down well with some of the activists. "Books of Socrates and Plato are not considered sacred, they are not read as holy books. But the Bhagawad Gita is a holy book, it is a sacred book fo a religion. Does Dr Surappa means the the Bhagawad Gita is not a holy as it is equivalent fo Plato and Socrates. Theology and Philosophy are not one and the same. You cannot questions a belief but philosophies are always debatable," Prince Gajendra Babu, General Secretary, State Platform for Common School System said.
The students from Anna University also took to Facebook to protest against the inclusion of the texts in the syllabus. In a poster on FB, the students said — 'Stop imposition of Bhagawad Gita. Don't mix science and myth. No religious interference in education, we want science not blind beliefs'. They urged other students to also say 'no to religious books in our education' with the hashtag #AUdon'tsupport.